In Squid Game, shit gets real when the bodies start dropping. It almost serves as a reality check, cutting through any sense of complacency that may grow in the off-hours. So far, while the players have been in the massive dorm, they’ve gotten a break from the fear of being killed. But there are no breaks, and episode four reveals that no matter how a player dies — on the game floor or in the dorm, by a guard’s gun or a player’s hands — their death counts toward the cash total. When that becomes known, a massacre begins once the lights go out.
Before player 271 dies, the line-cutting just seemed like an instance of playground bullying. After all, intimidation is always part of gangster Deok-su’s act. He cut the line on the very first day, he gathered a group of goons, and his introduction was beating up Sae-byeok in front of everyone. In that way, Deok-su is a perfect player for the game: He adopts childish tactics. When he kills 271 and realizes that he stands to benefit from having one less player around, Deok-su and his team go into full predator mode, taking out as many players as they can.
Meanwhile, Gi-hun is still operating with compassion. He offers Sae-byeok a place on his team not because she will be a strategic ally (even though, duh, she will), but because Deok-su will go after her. He even gives a neat line that sums up his thinking: “You don’t trust people because they’re trustworthy. It’s because you have nothing else to lean on.” While Sae-byeok isn’t going down easily, her inability to trust anyone leaves her vulnerable when everyone else has teamed up. So after holding her own for a while in the chaos, she joins Gi-hun’s group.
We come to learn more of the characters’ names in two very different scenes, one in the open dorm and another in a bathroom stall. For both Gi-hun and Mi-nyeo, exchanging names means building trust. Compassionate Gi-hun wants to build genuine trust between the members, even getting Sae-byeok to open up a bit. Mi-nyeo wants Deok-su to guarantee that he has her back and uses the afterglow of their bathroom stall sex and name exchange to cement an alliance.
Of course, it doesn’t work. Deok-su goes along in the moment, but he knows that he’ll have to dump her to make an all-male tug-of-war team before they smash. (At least, I think so. Why would he protect the doctor (111) before confirming that information?) After my first watch, I didn’t realize that the sex and betrayal happen in the same episode, but there’s literally less than 10 minutes of air time between them. It especially sucks that she gave him some after his earlier crudeness.
The addition of the doctor’s storyline adds another layer of intrigue, plus some gnarly organ-harvesting to boot. (Not that I enjoyed them; I can’t even watch medical shows with all the surgeries.) It doesn’t seem like his actions are sanctioned by the Front Man since a guard erases the maze detour from the cameras. We understand why he would agree to the harvesting in exchange for information on the upcoming games, but why are the guards working with him? Why would they trade information?
The only tug-of-war games we see are those for Team Deok-su and Team Gi-hun. I’m disqualifying Team Deok-su for being the worst, so that means the MVP for this episode is the old man (001), who comes through with a strategy that will now be used in playgrounds around the world (even I want to set up a random game to try it out). It’s the most concrete strategy used so far in the game, and it helps their team get the advantage at the start of the round, though they aren’t able to capitalize on it and finish off their opponent. Gi-hun also comes in clutch as the glue that holds the team together, another reason he gets the spirited leader position. He may not be the strongest or the smartest, but he keeps everyone together. The episode ends right as they execute Sang-woo’s tactic (raise your hand if you didn’t even feel the break because you clicked Next Episode so fast).
Though the tug-of-war set-up is epic, the twist of the episode was monumental, marking the first time players have to actively kill each other. The reveal also happens outside of a game, making it more shocking. It’s just like Squid Game to go from 0 to 200 and force the players kill each other when they aren’t even in the game.
I say “force” because, though the guards claim the game is based around free will and you volunteered to come and all that stuff, the Front Man really orchestrates the whole massacre. The guards know the plan is to limit the food supply (from a full lunchbox to a piece of bread in episode three, to an egg and a soda now). It may have felt like the natural order of events to the players, but it’s another example of how the game masters are puppeteering the players and “weeding out the weaklings.” The next episode is titled “A Fair World,” but how fair can it be when every move you make has been influenced by factors controlled by someone else?
The Next Game Will Begin Shortly
• Great effect of having the piggy bank lighting reflecting off Gi-hun, Sang-woo, and the dead player in that moment. Also, I think the piggy bank only glows gold when more money is about to be added (so when a player dies).
• Gi-hun does realize that something’s going on with Sang-woo, but he brushes it off pretty quickly. He also really is sweet, explaining away the old man’s forgetfulness as stress instead of dementia.
• “Oppa” is another weird translation that’s been pointed out on Twitter. It changes a lot due to context, but a decent translation of Mi-nyeo’s use from the streamer Viki is “a term a woman uses to refer to an older man she is close with.”
• We got a titty on a K-drama, my stars.
• Would you survive this game? I was always bigger than the average kid and used my body weight during tug of war. So yes, against a weak team, absolutely not against a strong team.